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ForbesBooks / A gripping new tale of a commuter plane crash may give frequent fliers pause.
The title of Gary M. Pomerantz's riveting new book, Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds (Crown, $24), re-flects the interval between structural trouble and the crash of ASA commuter flight 529 into a south Georgia hayfield in August 1995. Of the 29 people aboard, 19 miraculously survived. "An ode to the beauty and dignity of the human spirit," says a cover blurb. And for some, proof that fear of flying has some basis in fact.
In the first chapter a technician dutifully inspects a propeller blade, writes Pomerantz, "as if it would be at-tached to a plane carrying his family." But a year later a tiny fatigue crack causes the propeller to snap minutes into the flight, ripping the engine from its mounting and lodging it against the wing. The Brasilia turboprop plunges to the left, then drops, losing 2,750 feet in 25 seconds.
You feel the passengers' anguish. Minutes before impact, grade school teacher Dawn Dumm, 40, scribbles a note to her two kids: "You are the Lights of My Life. Always, Mommy." Despite a heroic effort by the pilot, the plane hits the ground at 138 miles an hour, splitting the fuselage in two. "Passenger and crew had 60 seconds to get out," writes Pomerantz. "Then would come fire."
The story has its share of valor. Shaken and bleeding, flight attendant Robin Fech, 37, strips off her vest and beats the flames from a burning passenger. After fleeing the wreck, 37-year-old computer trainer David McCorkell re-turns, struggling to free first officer Matthew Warmerdam, pinned inside the cockpit. All told, a great read. But you might want to tackle it while on terrafirma.